Series: Who Do You Say I Am?
Message: Who Do You Say I Am?
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Daily Walk: Japhet De Oliveira
Refresh: Open with prayer. Read or listen to Psalm 78:44-53.
Read: Matthew 16:13-24 (Message). Note 1-3 insights/questions that arise from the paraphrase.
Reflect: Yesterday, I mentioned three pivotal questions. Today, let us touch on the second one: Why did Jesus have to take the disciples to Caesarea Philippi? Of all the places He could have chosen, why choose this pagan city?
Augustus Caesar gave Herod the Great the city of Caesarea. Herod’s son Philip rebuilt the city and named it "Caesarea Philippi" so it would not be confused with Caesarea Maritime on the coast. There are so many possible reasons that Jesus would have mentioned this city—and even taken His disciples there. Perhaps it was to mark the end of their ministry in Galilee and the start of their mission to reach out to the Gentiles. Maybe Jesus wanted them to be sheltered away from the hustle, bustle, and spying eyes and ears of those set on destroying Him. Or did Jesus want to make a statement about all the world religions and how He stands alone among them as the only true path forward?
I personally lean more towards an explanation that takes into account the context of the site, and the perspective that most of the stories Jesus told were illustrative of every day life. "There once was a man attacked by thieves . . ."—probably that story or one like it was a hot news item at the time Jesus told the story. Caesarea Philippi, previously known as "Panais" after the Greek god Pan, seems to have become the center of pagan worship. Alexander the Great had imported Greek culture and the Greek language to this city. The god Pan was the god of shepherds, flocks, and nature, and this city was chosen as the center of worship to him because it was so lush with vegetation. The god Pan was half goat and half human. The legend was that he was born in a cave. At the base of a rock quarry in the city was a cave that waters flowed out of. It was also said to be the entry to the underworld—the gates of hell. In front of that cave, a temple was built to worship Caesar Augustus, and on the side of the temple were courts to honor Pan and another temple for worshipping Zeus, king of the Greek gods.
Perhaps Jesus took the disciples to this city to remind them that right there in the land promised to Moses stood the epicenter of pagan worship. Yet in that same space stood Jesus the Messiah. Maybe He wanted to demonstrate that while they may be surrounded by unbelievers and feel hopeless about the future, there is One who stands. One who lives. One who will change everything forever. That One is Jesus.
Respond: Pray for the opportunity to share that Jesus is God with someone.
Research: Where do we get the name pan-flute?